Traditional salt production revived in Italy

23/07/2007

White Gold – the Salt of the Langobards

Ms Lucilla Previati, director of the Po Delta Park (Parco del Delta del Po) in Italy (Emilia-Romagna Region), informs that they have launched a new product, historically known as “white gold”, i.e. finest sea salt produced according to traditional processes (using essentially solar energy) in the near-natural salt pans of Comacchio at the Adriatic Sea. The brand name “Salt of the Langobards” harbours proudly the Ramsar logo, based on the fact that the saltworks are part of the Ramsar site “Valli residue del comprensorio di Comacchio”, i.e. the remnants of an extensive complex of coastal lagoons and marshes drained in the 19th century for agriculture.

Traditional salt production was abandoned for decades in Comacchio lagoon, but has now resumed, thanks to a European Union-funded LIFE project for the restoration of its hydraulic system, the heritage of the saltworks infrastructure and the diverse natural habitats in the coastal area, now widely recognized for its particular cultural and biological diversity. The project provided furthermore the opportunity for closer contacts between three Ramsar sites, all including active saltworks alongside near-natural wetland types with a unique and extremely rich biodiversity, and particular socio-cultural and historical heritage values.

At current times, where industrial salt production along Mediterranean coasts is fighting for survival in a global economic context, the restoration of traditional production processes, creating consumer products with high added value in economic (gourmet table salt) and social terms (cultural heritage and tourism), can provide a valid tool for maintaining ecosystem values and services of these man-made wetland systems so typical for the Mediterranean climate.

The other two cooperating Ramsar sites are the “Saline di Cervia” somewhat further south along the Italian coast, also managed by the Po Delta Park, and the “Secovlje salt pans”, Slovenia’s first Ramsar site across the Adriatic Sea, managed by the Nature Park “Krajinski park Sešoveljske soline”. A very promising example of international cooperation for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development among the managers of similar Ramsar sites.

-- Tobias Salathé, Senior Advisor for Europe

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